Protesting students at a South Korean university have been credited with sparking the fall of the nation’s impeached president, Park Geun-hye.
Demonstrations by students at Ewha Womans University against the institution’s plans for a new degree programme eventually led to a sit-in to remove Ewha’s president, which in turn uncovered “a crucial piece of the puzzle in the political scandal that eventually brought down the country’s leader: the school’s favoritism to an equestrian athlete who turned out to be the daughter of Park’s secretive confidante, Choi Soon-sil”, The Washington Post reported.
“Ewha protests were the key to the impeachment,” said Lee Taek-Gwang, a professor of cultural studies at South Korea’s Kyunghee University.
“The extent of Ewha’s favors to Choi’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, was further investigated by South Korea’s parliament and a special prosecution team. Seven school officials, including its former president and several professors, were indicted on criminal charges, and Chung’s admission to the university was cancelled,” The Washington Post said.
The newspaper added that this “unleashed the massive popular movement that would help unseat Park, who was impeached by parliament in December” and formally removed from office last week. Ms Park is accused of being personally involved in Ms Choi’s pressuring of businesses to donate to the latter’s private foundations, in return for political favours.
As Times Higher Education reported in November, Ms Chung, a member of the national dressage team, enrolled at Ewha in 2015, soon after the university expanded its list of sports eligible for preferential treatment to include equestrian sports.
Despite minimal attendance and late submissions, Ms Chung received good marks, following a recently introduced internal regulation favouring the grades of students showing athletic or artistic ability.
The South Korean Ministry of Education dispatched a team to Ewha and found that Ms Choi’s daughter had been given preferential treatment. It then demanded that her admission to the university be cancelled.